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Unlocking the secrets of hummingbird energy usage

2nd June 2017

Posted By Paul Boughton


Hummingbirds need to maintain a high metabolism because they use energy at such extreme rates.

Due to their small size, they consume the caloric equivalent of 300 hamburgers in nectar daily.

Unless a female hummingbird is nesting, nightly temporary hibernation (Torpor) is vital to survival.

Torpor involves the drastic reduction of body temperature, and nesting hummingbirds are unable to enter this state as they must use their body temperature to look after their eggs.

Now FLIR Systems reports on how its thermal imaging cameras are being used by researchers at the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Center for Urban Resilience (Los Angeles, USA) to better understand how hummingbirds have an incredible ability to maintain strength with little rest.

Understanding the physiological mechanisms hummingbirds use to cope with extreme energy requirements and limitations may open the door to broader, human medical applications such as the necessity to reduce oxygen and food consumption during long-term space travel.

Because body temperature is the primary indicator of torpidity, the researchers needed a way to monitor nests without disturbing the birds and introducing variables that could alter findings.

By using FLIR C2 handheld and FLIR Vue Pro R thermal aerial surveillance drone cameras, LMU’s research team has been able to monitor birds from the air, while simultaneously capturing frequent, accurate and non-contact temperature readings.

LMU researchers are today monitoring 26 nests daily to measure the energy associated with female hummingbirds by thermally monitoring each of the nesting birds state of torpidity.






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